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Community Highlights: Meet Sean Kirkpatrick of Down To Ferment

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sean Kirkpatrick.

Hi Sean, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I’ve been in the culinary field all my life. From the age of 18, when I got my start as a prep cook. I’ve moved up throughout my career and held the title of executive chef, Food and beverage manager, and culinary director. In early 2020, I started getting heavy into fermentation as another skill and culinary piece of the pie to add to my repertoire. When COVID hit, the work-life balance declined sharply, mental health declined sharply, and I had family obligations to juggle as well. I had a cushion of savings and decided that it was time to disconnect from the corporate world of culinary. I took a much-needed several months off to rediscover what I actually wanted for my life. I love cooking but hate the work culture surrounding it. I really enjoyed fermenting and soon discovered that I actually make some really good sauces. Over the next several months, I test-marketed my three flagship sauces and locked down my recipes. I received enough positive feedback with them to finally feel comfortable taking the plunge and going to market with the rest of my savings.

After getting all the proper licensing and state and local permits, I launched the website on February 4th this year. I really wanted to focus on grassroots and community involvement with the company first. I am not an influencer or marketer, and really do well selling myself and my product face to face with customers. They can see my passion and love of my own product. So I started getting heavily into farmer’s markets and was welcomed quite well by all the different neighborhoods. I also am part of a Facebook community called “Fermented Hot Sauce Society” which has been instrumental in getting my business off the ground professionals and amateurs alike post, mingle and swap ideas on there. Several people in that group were insanely helpful understanding how to scale and grow the business. We are now in seven farmer’s markets and have great online sales!

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Yes and No. Luckily our business took off in sales, so we have had to grow more than expected in this short amount of time. We have finally hit our plateau if you will, on where we hover (in sales) month to month. But these past nine months we kept growing by 20-30% every month. So the biggest challenge from a sales and business standpoint was planning ahead, as each batch we make takes over a month to ferment and process. Making sure we are not selling out and losing on that revenue. So reinvesting back into the business was absolutely key. We started off processing about 200 bottles every two weeks or so. Now we’re making 1000+ bottles a WEEK. With that huge explosion in sales, we were able to reinvest nearly 90% of it back into the business to help us grow further.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Down To Ferment?
Down to Ferment specializes in fermented hot sauce and spice rubs (currently). We have aspirations to move into other fermented goods such as kimchee, sauerkraut, and pickles. Right now, the focus is on hot sauce.

What makes us different from 99% of hot sauces out there isn’t the fact that we ferment our product. It’s the fact that we brew and use our own Kombucha in our sauces. Most hot sauce on the market are vinegar-based, and the acidity level can sometimes overwhelm the subtle flavor profiles of the sauce itself. Using Kombucha, we are able to let those flavor profiles shine! The best part of our sauce is the journey your tongue takes. Our sauces don’t start out spicy or acidic. They start off with a highlighted flavor profile, which then moves into another one, and the spicy kicks in on the back end. Which is why we say, “flavor first, heat second”.

We always try to let our customers know that EVERY sauce is made completely from scratch by us. Our kombucha is fermented by us. Our peppers/ingredients are all fermented in house, we do not buy a fermented commercial mash. We do not co-pack our sauce. Even though it’s more expensive, we use high-quality FRESH ingredients like fresh horseradish root and not buying the prepared jarred stuff. Our pineapple hot sauce has actual fresh pineapple in it! Not just juice or flavoring.

We’re proud that our sauce is approachable for the everyday hot sauce user. Not focused on heat for pains’ sake or scoville. We also get many compliments at the markets about our branding and how it all ties together. From Beet your Meat to Ghosted, it all follows that fun DTF theme. We like to not take ourselves seriously and want people to joke around and laugh with us. Not here to claim health benefits of our sauces or market them as gourmet/exclusive. We just want you to enjoy the flavor and have a laugh.

We are currently working on our wholesale marketing and distribution. Hopefully, you’ll be able to get our sauces at your local grocery store!

Where we are in life is often partly because of others. Who/what else deserves credit for how your story turned out?
Ryan Minor who is my business partner and close friend has been instrumental in growing the business. His connections through the food and beverage industry as well as his technical skills in building our website and optimizing it along with the SEO were key. He also helps make every single batch of hot sauce and works farmer’s markets all over San Diego. Without him, we wouldn’t be where we are at today.

Fermented hot sauce society on Facebook and the friendly professionals on there were the sparks that helped this business launch. Getting feedback from them, messaging them one on one, asking equipment questions, every little thing helped me grow and be better informed.

Close friends of mine (Shane Dustin, CJ Caldwell, Lauren Ansolabahere) who helped me scrutinize the business side met with me to help figure out payment systems, shipping systems, and cost analysis and viability of the product. Without having a network of other like-minded professionals, it would have been impossible to do on my own.

Contact Info:

  • Email: sean@down2ferment.com
  • Website: www.down2ferment.com
  • Instagram: @down2ferment
  • Facebook: @down2ferment


Image Credits:

Bradley Schweit Jeremiah Bonds

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